Self-Critique or Self-Criticism?

Yin Yang KBThe competition begins, and everyone in your peripheral is engaged in 10 minutes of interpersonal combat. You’ve got your pace, your groove, they’ve got theirs. Look out, look up, there’s a clock. As the clock rolls backwards, it engages any variety of internal dialogue. So many reps per minute, a finite number of minutes, stay on target, hit your mark, land your goal and go home happy & victorious.

Competition doesn’t always end that way. Sometimes we win, others we wish we would’ve.

One of the competitors crushes his reps and exceeds his previous personal best by 20 or more. “Congratulations,” you say, “I knew you looked strong!” Another competitor came close to his intended rep tally by just a few. “Still, man, you rocked it, that was awesome,” you say. In both cases you were right. Neither case is a sugar coat, you’re genuinely & sincerely happy for both. Even falling a few reps short beats not stepping up on the platform.

Until it comes to you . . . Maybe you missed a couple of reps as well, maybe a few, maybe a lot . . . What do you say to you?

There are negative ways to say positive things, and positive ways to say negative things. It is easier to say & believe negative things to someone when that someone is you. In others we recognize & appreciate the merits of effort & ambition. We also understand that sometimes things just happen, and not always well. A cramp, a temporary blackout, an anxiety crash . . . any number of legitimate things can befall our peers, but not ourselves. When the conversation goes internal, the words are often soured by our hopes more so than our actuality.

Whatever happened up there is done. We might have learned that the physical or mental reality of 10 consistent minutes is still a goal to keep working towards. A slower or faster pace might have altered our outcome more favorably. Regardless, whatever happened up there is part of the process, just like what we say to ourselves in the following minutes, hours & days is part of the process. Our process, our experience. No matter what, competition is always interpersonal. So is our internal dialogue.

In training, sport & competition we strive to do our best. Each rep is our benchmark to meet or surpass on the next one. Some reps feel like they regress, but we adjust, we compensate, we overcome & we move on. How we talk to ourselves in he afterglow of our competitive accomplishment should be no different.

As athletes, as artists, it is always okay to critique, but it is never okay to criticize . . . not others and certainly never ourselves. The difference lies in our intent. With critique, we acknowledge mistakes & recognize methods & movements of improvement. Criticism is destructive and detours or breaks our path of process & progress.

A good critique might be: “I shot out of the gate too fast. I could have kept my reps lower upfront & had more energy for the end.”

A bad & destructive criticism sounds more like: “Man, you suck. You totally dropped the ball on that one. What were you thinking?”

In our critique we define a potential source of whatever problem we faced and identify a path of recourse & repair. Critique keeps us on path & task and keeps us moving forward in our training.

In criticism we stunt our potential for growth with the discoloration of focused negativity. Instead of using multiple colors for effect, we paint a wide swath of dark & dreary over our experience.

Criticism fails to appreciate the ongoingness of the process that is our journey. Critique is an authentic snapshot of where we’ve been, and a sincere sketch of where we’re going.

Sometimes Strength has nothing to do with how much we can pick up one time, or even how well we do over a predetermined & premeditated period. Sometimes Strength is about Endurance . . . long haul Endurance. How do we get from Point A to Point Z when Points B, G, M & Q are road-closures & detours?

What we say is as important as what we do. Our speech, our internal dialogues is the coveted & cherished link between Mind & Body. Strong Mind = Strong Body.

Semper Fortis,


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